Four researchers at The University of Western Australia have received $2.2 million in Federal Government funding to tackle the causes and impacts of dementia – the second-leading cause of death in Australia behind heart disease.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley and Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham today announced 76 fellowships would share $43 million in National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council funding.
Ms Ley said the number of Australians with dementia was predicted to grow to more than one million people in the next 40 years. There are around 342,000 Australians living with dementia with more than 1,800 new cases of dementia each week.
Fellowships were awarded to Dr Sarah Rea and Dr Kate Smith, both from the UWA-affiliated Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Dr Andrew Ford, from UWA’s School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences and Sam Buckberry, from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.
Dr Rea’s project will focus on how gene mutations in self-degrading cell receptors cause dementia. Research will highlight the exact pathways affected by mutations in each of the receptors, providing new insights into common and underlying disease mechanisms that will lead to the development of future treatments.
With dementia five times more prevalent in Aboriginal Australians than non-Aboriginals, Dr Smith’s project aims to help develop a better quality of life for sufferers, as well as identifying factors associated with a better quality of life. Dr Smith will undertake her fellowship with UWA’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health
Dr Ford will investigate factors contributing to the development of depression in adults with Alzheimer’s disease and the effect of a simple, safe and cost-effective treatment – cognitive bias modification (CBM) – in preventing the development of depression. His research will also examine the effect of CBM on the quality of life of those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Research by Mr Buckberry will provide new insights into the role of the epigenome in Alzheimer’s disease, enabling crucial advances in understanding its origins. While the ‘genome’ can be thought of as the instruction manual that contains the blueprints (genes) for all of the components of our cells and our body, the ‘epigenome’ provides an additional layer of information on top of our genes that change the way they are used.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716